Last year, The New York Times investigated the benefits of drinking kombucha, and its journalist came to this sarcastic conclusion:
“If by ‘benefits’ you mean being wildly popular and sometimes unpredictably alcoholic, then yes [it’s healthy].”
The imaginary air quotes are just a sample of kombucha’s contentious position. For almost two decades, kombucha has been on the rise—migrating from its humble, homemade status to top-selling shelves at Whole Foods. Even PepsiCo added kombucha to its portfolio in 2016.
So what is kombucha, and is it more than a trend?
Kombucha is a fermented and sweetened tea that polarizes the masses: people usually love it or hate it.
The fermented tea contains trace levels of alcohol and gas (supplying the carbonated sensation), and acetic acid (also found in vinegar). Kombucha’s health benefits are often linked to its lactic acid bacteria, which could function like probiotics and be good for the gut.
How to make kombucha
The process of preparing kombucha starts with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (called “scoby”). This blob looks like dingy gelatin and is, admittedly, quite ugly.
Kombucha involves double fermentation wherein a scoby is placed in sweetened tea (green or black) and left to ferment at room temperature for 1-3 weeks. Next, it’s bottled for an additional 1-2 weeks to contain released CO2 and develop carbonation.
Bottled kombucha is then placed in a refrigerator to slow down the carbonation and fermentation processes.
Kombucha without borders
Did you know February 21 is World Kombucha Day? Do a quick #kombucha search and you’ll find “booch” lovers, fermenters, and purveyors from around the globe.
You’ve got big-name brands like GT’s Living Foods, KeVita, and Health-Ade, but now there are swarms of companies getting into the fizzy vinegar.
Boochcraft is California’s first high alcohol kombucha (plus carries the gluten-free, organic, and fair-trade labels). Sierra Nevada is releasing “Strainge Beast Hard Kombucha”—a blend of ginger, lemon, and hibiscus that boasts a 7% ABV. And Australia has its brand of alcoholic kombucha called “Naughty Booch.”
It seems kombucha is only on the rise—and as we follow the trends (and tastes) of tea aficionados, we expect to see much more of this fizzy vinegar.
Do you love kombucha? Let us know! 👎👎👎👎
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